In mere centuries, and hardly more than a couple, barely a blip in human history, the Royal moats of exclusion have shrunk and dried to useless empty ditches. Muddy rings encircle what were once hallowed grounds. Seeming forever, impregnable gates loomed before approaching masses, the Kingdoms of influence and privilege winking beyond them, as illusory and unreachable as castles in the clouds.
I was asked to share my thoughts on a photograph I had taken in the Palliser Hotel, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The hotel is a famous landmark and one of the city’s premier destinations.
I said I would. I forgot. I remembered. Forgot again.
Time did what time does.
Over a few days leading up to Christmas I sat down to finally fulfill my promise.
I might remember something worth noting, or just use it as a springboard into a ramble. Maybe both.
I had nothing in mind. This is it. New to me too.
Soon after the start, I decided I was writing for more than myself and the person who asked about the photograph.
This is for everyone.
It is reassuring to feel you belong in the confines of luxury and privilege.
Of course, if you need reassurance, perhaps you do not belong.
Natives to luxury, on the whole, require no reminder that it is their place ensconced in sumptuous leather, and surrounded by dark coloured wood and ornate gilt. This is the domain of money, and the realm of people who could not fathom living without it. Lots of it.
As we know, “The rich are different.”
People accustomed to their financial means far outstripping their earthly needs, deem questions of deserving and belonging to be well beneath the notion of inquiry. Indeed, for the very comfortably moneyed, questioning the manner of their own rarefied existence is as alien to them, as is walking to an eagle. They can do it, but it dims their majesty.
For the citizen of great material means, the assumption that their place is deserved and right is absolute. The ease with which genuine wealth moves through luxury, is the grace of a shark gliding through bountiful waters. They are at home.
The atmosphere of unquestioned privilege is calm.
Reassurance is for everyone else.
Wealth today is anomalous. A freak.
Now, those same impassable barriers hang open, not gone, but forgotten. Broken and unable to close.
Elite is now fungible. Aristocracy violated. Titles are blurred.
Aeries of luxury and exclusion are newly littered with all manner of strange feathers. The silences of remote and previously unreachable nests are shattered by the squawking, the clucking, and the riot of anything with a beak and wings. Masters of the sky, evermore, find their once impossible heights crowded with the common, the foreign, even the flightless. Motley plumage mingles with finery.
Back on earth, in real life, private clubs and ancient fraternities, grande hotels too, hear strangers knocking.
Outdated barricades are being overrun by the peasants.
The ancient Greeks had a term for new found wealth that became the genesis of the word noble. I Googled it. The Romans referred to the new man as someone fresh to riches. That too.
However, this I know from high school, and books made from trees, the termNouveau Riche became popular around the time, and because of, the Industrial Revolution.
The world of wealth and privilege has been turning upside down for about as long as America has been a country. Coincidence mostly, but a good yardstick.
First in the West. Now the rest.
Anyone can be rich.
More important, anyone can appear to be rich.
The world teems with all manner of new found wealth.
Authenticity, on the other hand, remains constant, and rare.
Ships laden with ballast pass for those carrying gold.
The seas of good fortune beckon with promises of new lands and undiscovered treasure. Not without danger, none the less, open to all.
Let the most deserving find gold and fame.
The hale and hardy will triumph over the less able.
Pretenders will flounder.
Fraud ends beneath the waves.
A reminder the laws of Nature still apply.
More hereditary, less inheritance.
Symmetry is Nature.
Photography is light.
Composition is pattern and balance.
Mirrors are wed to light. They make more light.
Patterns mirror reflections.
Reflections are images in the wild.
Mirrors are wed to light. They make more light.
Patterns mirror reflections.
People come in two flavours.
Night and day.
We have no choice, and like other predilections, it is best to find your preference and embrace it.
I am nocturnal.
Light must have dark.
Silence is meaningless without noise.
Fear wasted without comfort.
Structure corrodes in the dark.
Things that go bump in the night are not planned.
The strange and unexpected congregate when the day expires.
At night illumination is by chance.
The Fates play tricks in the shadows.
There is no map for traveling in the dark.
Hazards appear in their true size. Unannounced.
Happiness is a warm abyss. Sorry John.
We know where we are going by day. Night is for unscheduled stops and the absurd.
Better to wander the unknown than relive memories. To linger on the same road invites loneliness.
Sunrise is a dagger in the heart of darkness. The death of night.
Alcohol is my best friend.
It knows me better than anyone else.
Alcohol has been with me since we first met. It will never abandon me.
Alcohol kills me with love.
Alcohol brings uncertainty. I prefer that to its opposite.
Uncertainty has its own reward. Narrow escapes from death for one.
Alcohol shows me excitement, and gives me destruction. It never fails to surprise.
Alcohol travels with unplanned chaos. Irreparable harm is sometimes along for the ride.
Alcohol spatters my years with pain, for me, and those who Love me.
I always forgave alcohol. After all, it was always my fault.
Love is blind.
Today the halls of luxury must echo with assurances.
Newly minted patrons are rumpled in their status.
Some of the passengers are not sure they are on the proper deck.
Strutting and clucking, heads bob in wonder. Eyes question.
They need to be soothed. A smile can do it.
“Of course madame.”
Discontent silenced with your footfalls on the plush carpet.
Your money is good here. You’ve earned it.
It is all here.
Surrounded by comfort. People nearby to serve.
Light and dark. Patterns. Symmetry.
Images in the wild.
Luxury and Night.
Alcohol, a warm glow in the low light, so like it’s seductive introduction at the start of a days drinking.
The image is rich.
I was unsure.
Looking at the photograph now I can see all manner of analogy.
Parallels and suggestive metaphors. Some real. Most imagined.
It’s like songwriters constantly asked about hidden meanings and secret messages.
Finally they confess, “It’s just a song.”
I confess. I never saw the question.
I just saw a song.
Everything is light. In truth and in life.
I am the luckiest guy I know.
The better you know me, the more you know why I think this to be true.
I can not count them, so could never tell, of all the reasons why it is so.
We all question.
We are optimistic by nature.
Humour dances with Balance to the music of Symmetry.
Beauty is Hope. Nature is Joy. Art is Mystery.
Easy laughter is our passport home.
Reassurance does not belong where you do.
The Palliser photograph turned out to be a springboard.
No one is more surprised than I am about what the image provoked me to write. It prompted some reminders too.
Certainties can be forgotten with familiarity.
Excellence must be surrounded by the common to have meaning.
There are far more bad songs than good.
Sometimes we find things attractive, intriguing, or meaningful, but we don’t know why. Those same things can resonate louder for someone else.
I often take a photograph and hardly think twice about it. Something is there, but different eyes will see it, and if chance permits, they will show me.
We like different songs. I shudder that we did not.
This too is just a song.
I have no motivation or agenda regards wealth, social position, history, or where we are today as a society.
O.k. I do, but it has no place in this little mental meander about my thoughts on a particular place and time.
Here I offer musings on a chilly afternoon.
Rumination on past travels, indoors, rather than having to do something unpleasant and coldoutside.
I look forward to when I might again stay at the Palliser, or any other inviting place, opulent or not, and would not worry about if I belonged there, at least not any more than wonder if anyone else did.
December 26, 2017.